Jesus taught Mercy, but Peter invokes God's harsh Justice for fraud? - how is this good?

When a Samaritan village does not accept Jesus, John and James asks for Fire to be sent down from heaven. Jesus then rebukes them teaching them a lesson in Mercy. Luke 9:51

Likewise, when unrepentant Judas steals from the earliest Christian “moneybox” - Jesus does not kill Judas - John 12

However, when Peter discovers a fraudulent withholding of Ananias and Sapphira, he seems to call down death (with zero time to self reflect and repent) upon both of them and God carries it out. Acts 5

How can we reconcile Peter’s invocation of harsh Justice in Acts 5, with the Mercy so clearly taught by Jesus who gives ample time for mercy (Luke 9:51, John 12 as only some of the examples)?

Thoughts on how Peter’s act was still good and not in conflict with Jesus’ clearly taught examples?

Who actually killed Ananias and Sapphira?

You stated that “God carried it out”, so that would be the exact same Christ that you spoke correct?

If so, if Christ was the one who carried it out, would that not also be an example of Christ, a ‘clearly taught example’ , to use your words?

Yes, so this is why I am confused. Why does God seem to behave so differently? When Christ was on earth, He strictly taught Mercy (and even in the case of Judas’ thievery which was allowed by Christ) going so far as to reprimand his apostles. And God still strictly teaches Mercy through the Church (example Mercy week, forgiveness of trespasses, etc), yet when two new converts commit fraud - they experienced only Justice - excommunication + death (with zero time - as opposed to at least a few years - to consider their wrongdoings and repent). Thoughts?

Jesus also said that those who lead his little ones into sin …that it would be better if they had a milestone tied around their neck and be cast into the sea…

(got to run now…dinner bell…I am sure others will give more…not time to add more)

Is God sovereign or not?

That is also an example to us. Christ is the same God who flooded the Earth, killed the first born of Egypt, and destroyed Sodom.

He is a God of Justice. Yes, He offers Mercy to those who repent, but we are know that we will may be called to the Throne of Judgement at ANY moment.

Christ taught that exact same message when He told us of the rich man who had stored up much wealth, but was called that very night. Such was the case of Ananias and Sapphira. They tried to store Earthly wealth and were called at that very moment.

Of course, God can be Just whenever He wants to be. But I think something is missing in this story when Christ came to preach Mercy and we see Peter and God acting with severe judgment. The two don’t seem to reconcile. Any other thoughts on how to Peter would not have been called a “Son of Thunder” in this incident? Or how Judas was allowed to steal from the Christian Purse under Christ’s care while these converts were excommunicated and killed instantaneously?

Isn’t there a better answer than “God is Just - so He can be severe”?

Another similar contradiction is when Peter denied Jesus Christ. Peter, arguably Jesus’ best friend and the chosen leader of the Apostles - was allowed to live. And Peter then went on to deny Christ a second time and a third time - rather than instantaneously falling over dead after the first denial. And Christ forgave Peter at the next opportunity. So how did Peter justify this immediate condemnation (or at least that’s what it seems to have been) for those who committed a seemingly less grievous crime: fraud?

Did Peter and God simply want to use these two as an example to invoke a healthy fearful respect among all the others in the Church, perhaps? But consider, then, that the punishment seems inconsistent - has anyone heard of any criminal in the Vatican Bank that immediately fell over dead? Or perhaps someone that decided not to follow through on the Annual Catholic Appeal, fall over in the pew after the basket passed by?

The main question then still stands - how is it that only a few years before we see Christ allowing everyone ample time for Mercy: Judas and his thievery from Christ’s own purse (and allowing even Judas’ betrayal), Peter and his denial, the Apostles hiding in fear, the Adultress from stoning, rebuking John and James of wishing Justice in the form of fire from Heaven, and even mercy to a Legion of Demons who would rather have been sent into a flock of pigs rather than back to Hell, and mercy of those who committed deicide: on the High Priest, Herod and Pilate who were all allowed ample time to repent after the worst crime in human history…

And yet here we see the ultimate in severe Justice being invoked upon these two people new to the Church (who did not follow Christ around for 3 years) who committed a crime, but not nearly in scale to those whom Christ tolerated and allowed ample time for mercy to be grasped and repentance to be had.

So among criminals against Christ - these two seem to have received the most severe punishment of instantaneous condemnation, inconsistent with others that had committed much greater crimes (either due to their closeness in relationship with Jesus, or in their duty as leaders).

Why these two? What was so unique about this incident among all the other atrocious crimes committed against Jesus a few years before (by those close to Him - including Peter - and the Leaders who were supposed to be “responsible” leaders of the people) - the same Jesus who preached Mercy resoundingly and granted time to people like Peter to repent?

God did grant Peter the power to unleash on Earth whatever he desired (assuming that whatever was asked was not unjust). Was it that this fraud was a grave sin, so God allowed Peter to execute much like a King can execute any criminal he would like to? And likewise to Kings of the middle ages, they could behave inconsistently and could be guilty themselves of much greater crimes in their own personal histories?

Could this perhaps, then have been an act that Christ would not have committed had He still been on Earth, but did so at Peter’s request because He had previously given Peter that power and these were indeed criminals - so although it was lacking mercy, it was not lacking justice?

Did perhaps future Popes learn from this incident and turn in the future to more of a focus on Mercy rather than calling down Justice for the many crimes that came upon Christ’s Church in the centuries to come?

Do popes still have this power to invoke immediate condemnation, but refrain from using it - leaving the most serious act to be ex-communication without death from on High?

To me this is a very mysterious incident in the Acts of the Apostles due to its inconsistency to other crimes and its preternatural/miraculous nature.

Any other ideas, thoughts?

In light of the Church’s fearful response to this incident, did Peter and his future predecessors perhaps learn that “with great power comes great responsibility”? - and is the reason we don’t see this type of incident repeating itself often throughout history?

wishIknew #1
Thoughts on how Peter’s act was still good and not in conflict with Jesus’ clearly taught examples?
Yes, so this is why I am confused. Why does God seem to behave so differently? When Christ was on earth, He strictly taught Mercy (and even in the case of Judas’ thievery which was allowed by Christ) going so far as to reprimand his apostles.

That is really not the reality of Christ’s example. It might be really Catholic if we looked at the reasons why Jesus of Nazareth is never shown in the Gospels as smiling or laughing, against suppositions by the confused.

That very same loving Christ to His own Apostles, “whom He loved to the end”, exclaimed: “Have you no sense, no wits, are your hearts dulled, can’t you see, your ears hear, don’t you remember?” (Mk 8:17-18) (Frank Sheed, Christ In Eclipse, Sheed & Ward 1978, p 42). "With individuals He was very much the doctor with a duty not only to tell them what was wrong with them, but to make sure they realized it.” (Ibid. p 40-41).

St John is a good example of the ways of Jesus as the Way, apparently unknown, like much else, to many. John “had met the hard firmness three times: when he and his brother asked for high places in Christ’s kingdom, his ambition was tossed back on him so decisively (Mk 10:35-41); when he wanted fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan city which would not receive Christ, he was rebuked, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are, for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them’ (Lk 9:56); when he asked how Peter was to die he was told in effect to mind his own business (Jn 21:22).”

The forgotten reality that is Jesus of Nazareth is given by the great Frank Sheed:
“Certainly, some people who knew Christ in His lifetime would have been startled to find so much made of His loving kindness, indeed might have wondered if you were talking of the same person.”

Frank Sheed points out that Jesus was simply not given to sentimental utterances, and we have just seen how he handled John. Jesus shows plenty of the emotions of anger and grief – at those who accused Him of breaking the Sabbath when he healed (Mk 3:5). We never see Him smile, and His settled habit was terseness of speech. He made it His duty to tell people what was wrong with them, and made sure they realised it.

He refers us to the Gentile woman who “must have felt His ‘Do you want Me to take the bread of the children and give it to dogs?’ as an assertion of her inferiority as a Gentile:…did she feel Him loving?” (Mk 7:25)

So much for the false “acceptance” so often attributed to the Christ who told the woman taken in adultery to “sin no more” as she had breached the sixth commandment – which ensured that she paid more attention to the law. (Jn 8:3-11).

On the multitude however “he had compassion, for they were helpless and harassed like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36). So, beware of the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
[See *Christ In Eclipse, Frank Sheed, Sheed & Ward, 1978, p 40-41].

On Christ’s compassion for the multitude the incomparable Sheed continues:
“Yet one wonders how much He showed it: for they too had to have the truth. His settled habit was terseness of speech. When His mother told Him of her sorrow and Joseph’s for having deserted them for three days His answer began, ‘Didn’t you know–’ then He went home ‘and was obedient to them’. When she suggested a miracle at Cana, His words were ‘what does it have to do with us?’ – then He worked the miracle.”

“I see why some of my friends find Him not very attractive. He seems not to have spread Himself to win affection. Yet He did, in His lifetime, draw people to Him: yet something in the personality must have given the bluntness of his words a different feel. And this comes through in the Gospel pages, now as all down through the centuries.” Christ in Eclipse, p 41-42].

St Peter was given special power to curb heresy and display truth.

The Navarre notes: “the main sin is that Ananias and his wife seek to deceive the Church and therefore God”…

The Navarre Bible Commentary further notes that the severe punishment “befits the circumstances: the Church was in a foundational period…” “The fault could not have been treated lightly”, St. John Chrysostom explains; “like a gangrene it had to be cut out before it infected the rest of the body…” Some Fathers (cf St. Augustine, Sermons 148) think that God’s punishment was that of physical death, not eternal reprobation"

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It is salutary to recall the reality of the authority and power that Jesus gave St Peter, and the exercise of that authority and power.

“But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail, and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32). This for His Vicar, Peter alone.

Peter often spoke for the rest of the Apostles (Mt 19:27; Mk 8:29; Lk 12:41; Jn 6:69). The Apostles are sometimes referred to as “Peter and his companions” (Lk 9:32; Mk 16:7; Acts 2:37). Peter’s name always heads the list of the Apostles (Mt 10:1-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13). Finally, Peter’s name is mentioned 191 times, which is more than all the rest of the Apostles combined (about 130 times).

After Peter, the most frequently mentioned Apostle is John, whose name appears 48 times. Peter is conspicuously involved in all the Church’s important “firsts.” Peter led the meeting which elected the first successor to an Apostle ( Acts 1:13-26). Peter preached the first sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:14), and received the first converts (Acts 2:4 1). Peter performed the first miracle after Pentecost (Acts 3:6-7), inflicted the first punishment upon Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-11), and excommunicated the first heretic Simon the magician (Acts 8:2 1).

Peter is the first Apostle to raise a person from the dead (Acts 9:36-4 1). Peter first received the revelation to admit Gentiles into the Church (Acts 10:9-16), and commanded that the first Gentile converts be baptized (Acts 10:44-48).

Already, Peter had exercised his supreme authority in the upper room before Pentecost to have Judas’ place filled. At the first Apostolic Council of Jerusalem Peter settled the heated discussion over circumcising the gentiles and “the whole assembly fell silent” (Acts 15:7-12). Paul made sure that his ministry to the gentiles was recognised by, Peter (Gal 1:I8).

God may exorcise either Justice or Mercy. With some, it is justice.

Much in the same sense that St. Paul says that a ball of clay may be used to make a spit-toon or a beautiful vase. It just depends on the potter and not on the clay.

Some may say that this is mean, but if so, than we are saying God has to do what we think is right. But he is God and may do as it pleases him.

There may also be some unknown factors about these two that we don’t know about as well. And maybe this was just the final straw. After all, an explanation for everything is not always written down. This might very well be one of them.


Here is a theory to consider: This “miracle” was allowed because Peter was given the Keys of the Kingdom to “loose on earth what will be loosed in Heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Since God’s Justice and Mercy are neither evil, Peter had been given the power to invoke either from Heaven.

For certainly, if Peter had this power, he could have invoked death upon those that killed Jesus at the time that he was accusing them in the temple. And the Temple leaderships certainly carried greater guilt than these two. But instead, Peter called for repentance.

Peter, however, was a big-hearted, impetuous Apostle, who when provoked would tend to over-react - as when he cut off the ear of the guard.

So it may be that though Peter did not sin, this was not one of Peter’s “fairest” moments - with “fair” being treating criminals with equal measure - since he seemed to be letting Jesus’ wicked executioners off the hook with ample time to repent, while these two received at best a few moments before dying.

Realizing the gravity of this power to invoke God’s Justice, this might be the reason that we don’t see Justice being practiced often by any of the Apostles or future popes or miraculous saints.

That said, in the End Times, the two Witnesses may give demonstrations of Justice as a regular part of their message to repent - but then this would be to stir up a last minute fear of God since the message of the Mercy of God promoted by our Popes has not been properly or widely heeded.

Just a theory to throw into the mix for this very puzzling passage.

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